Self-publishing mistakes

What mistakes to look out for when self-publishing.

This could be a book on its own, let alone an article. To make things easier I’ll categorise them into the following areas: 1 – manuscript 2 – cover 3 – marketing 4 – choosing the right company5 – ebooks 6 – selling.

1 – manuscript. Never send a manuscript off without it being in the best shape possible. First drafts are not acceptable, particularly if you’ve never read it yourself. Ernest Hemingway said it best: ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’ Jeffrey Archer rewrites his books up to fifteen times, so why would you think your book is good enough without checking it. We have received first drafts and sent them back. Our job is to polish your diamond, not the coal.

Great ways to do this. Change the colour of the font before reading it through – a tip from Joanne Harris of ‘Chocolat’ fame. Change the font before read through. Read the text aloud. Use Grammarly. Some people hate it, but it can pick up a lot mistakes. Hire an editor. And a proof-reader. They do different jobs. Get some draft copies done and let beta-readers give you feedback.

Do all of these things and by the time the book goes to print you can be confident you’ll have a book in good shape to be read by someone that pays for it.

Number one mistake.

2 – cover. A minefield and yet it’s so easy to get it right. Number one mistake: designing the cover yourself without the right skills. A designer will help you with your cover and it will cost you from about £70 to a few hundred pounds. The value to your book will be massive. No shiny covers. Gloss laminate is a sign of a poorly produced self-published book in almost every case. Matt laminate is great. So is soft-touch if done well. Make sure you have a barcode if you ever want to see your book in a shop. The price doesn’t have to be on the cover, but it’s usually best if it is. Get the blurb right. Just because you’re the author, doesn’t mean you are necessarily the best person to write this. Remember, the blurb is a marketing piece. It’s one of the main things that sells the book. In which case, a copywriter might be your best option here.

Market your book.

3 – marketing. The biggest mistake authors make with their marketing is that they don’t do any! They will say things like ‘I’m no good at that. I just want to write.’ Or another is ‘I don’t have time.’ Yet another, ‘I don’t have the budget.’ All of which leads to no sales. There are millions of books in the world. How are your readers supposed to find you if you don’t tell them you exist? Solution: market your book and you as an author, daily!


4 – choosing the right company. Most of this article is about you doing the work yourself, however, if you do choose a self-publishing company, how do you choose the right one? There is a longer article in the Knowledge Centre that covers this, so I’ll be brief. Start with the research. Is there someone you can speak to that will answer your queries? Preferably, on the phone. Also, can you visit their office and meet the people you’ll be working with? Do they print in the UK or in Europe or China for that matter? What is their process if things go wrong? You need answers to all of these and everything else on your mind. Choose wisely.

Outsource it.

5 – ebooks. Amazon claim that it’s a simple process to format ebooks, but the fact is if you muck it up your book will be ripped to shreds in the reviews section. From a company point of view, we have someone who does it for us. We’ve used him since day one and never had a problem. I recommend you do the same i.e. outsource it. Don’t rely just on Amazon to sell the book either. There’s Smashwords to sell your ebook in EPUB format as well as many other sites including your own website.

Do events. Do talks.

6 – Which brings us to selling. Many authors find this the hardest part. Marketing is bad enough, but selling? Oh God. I’m just a writer. This is the way some authors think. Your job is to create brilliant books that people want to buy, so sell them! Give them the opportunity to buy your books. You’re proud of them after all, aren’t you? Where to sell them? Amazon is obvious, but I recommend you don’t sign up for KDP Select. Some authors love it. I’m not a fan. And if you sign up with KDP you can’t sell your books for 90 days with anyone else. Be aware of price matching too. If your book is selling for £2.99 on your website, you can’t sell it for £4.99 on Amazon. Their software knows and will price match your book. Do events. Don’t hide behind your keyboard. Do talks, contact the W.I. Do open mic nights. Approach bookshops, but be respectful of them. Bookshop owners do not like pushy authors. And be aware. Bookshop owners talk. If you upset one of them, they all get to know.

The biggest mistake in selling is not being pro-active. Sell that book. Tell the world about it. Get out in the world.

We all make mistakes.

Finally, accept that we all make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, it’s because you’re not doing anything. Learn from them and move on. Don’t dwell on them and as much as possible, don’t repeat them. One of the things we do as a company is to help you avoid as many mistakes as possible. That’s what you pay us for, but if you’re out there on your own, keep plugging away and accept that mistakes have to happen to help you improve.

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

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